Contemplating the First Plantae

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Science  17 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6070, pp. 809-810
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218515

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The cells of photosynthetic eukaryotes such as plants and algae contain organelles, called plastids or chloroplasts, responsible for photosynthesis. Plastids contain some DNA, a vestige of their origin from free-living cyanobacteria. On page 843 of this issue, Price et al. (1) use comparative genomics with the obscure algal protist, Cyanophora paradoxa, to propose a resolution to the question of how plastids have spread through the eukaryotes. By understanding the implications of their results, we may be able to picture the overall characteristics of the very first alga.